The Cheerful Smugglers
Ellis Parker Butler
Author of "Confessions of a Daddy," "Pigs is Pigs," etc.
With illustrations by May Wilson Preston
New York The Century Co. 1908
Copyright, 1908, by THE CENTURY CO.
Copyright, 1907, by The Phelps Publishing Co.
Published, May, 1908
THE DE VINNE PRESS
I THE FENELBY TARIFF 3
II THE BOX OF BON-BONS 34
III KITTY'S TRUNKS 57
IV BILLY 91
V THE PINK SHIRT-WAIST 110
VI BRIDGET 139
VII THE AMATEUR DETECTIVE 158
VIII THE FIELD OF DISHONOR 189
IX BOBBERTS INTERVENES 206
X TARIFF REFORM 229
XI THE COUP D'ETAT 251
List of Illustrations
"'We ought to have a domestic tariff'" Frontispiece
"She was busy with Bobberts" 27
"Mrs. Fenelby handed Kitty's baggage-checks to Tom" 55
"Never in the history of trunks was the act of unpacking done so quickly or so recklessly" 81
"With all the grace of a Sandow" 87
"'I declare one collar'" 103
"When the 6:02 pulled in" 193
The Cheerful Smugglers
THE FENELBY TARIFF
Bobberts was the baby, and ever since Bobberts was born—and that was nine months next Wednesday, and just look what a big, fat boy he is now!—his parents had been putting all their pennies into a little pottery pig, so that when Bobberts reached the proper age he could go to college. The money in the little pig bank was officially known as "Bobberts' Education Fund," and next to Bobberts himself was the thing in the house most talked about. It was "Tom, dear, have you put your pennies in the bank this evening?" or "I say, Laura, how about Bobberts' pennies to-day. Are you holding out on him?" And then, when they came to count the contents of the bank, there were only twenty-three dollars and thirty-eight cents in it after nine months of faithful penny contributions.
That was how Fenelby, who had a great mind for such things, came to think of the Fenelby tariff. It was evident that the penny system could not be counted on to pile up a sum large enough to see Bobberts through Yale and leave a margin big enough for him to live on while he was getting firmly established in his profession, whatever that profession might be. What was needed in the Fenelby family was a system that would save money for Bobberts gently and easily, and that would not be easy to forget nor be too palpable a strain on the Fenelby income. Something that would make them save in spite of themselves; not a direct tax, but what you might call an indirect tax—and right there was where and how the idea came to Fenelby.
"That's the idea!" he said to Mrs. Fenelby. "That is the very thing we want! An indirect tax, just as this nation pays its taxes, and the tariff is the very thing! It's as simple as A B C. The nation charges a duty on everything that comes into the country; we will charge a duty on everything that comes into the house, and the money goes into Bobberts' education fund. We won't miss the money that way. That's the beauty of an indirect tax: you don't know you are paying it. The government collects a little on one thing that is imported, and a little on another, and no one cares, because the amount is so small on each thing, and yet look at the total—hundreds of millions of dollars!"
"Goodness!" exclaimed Mrs. Fenelby. "Can we save that much for Bobberts? Of course, not hundreds of millions; but if we could save even one hundred thousand dollars—"
"Laura," said Mr. Fenelby, "I don't believe you understand what I mean. If you would pay a little closer attention when I am explaining things you would understand better. A tariff doesn't make money out of nothing. How could we save a hundred thousand dollars out of my salary, when the whole salary is only twenty-five hundred dollars a year, and we spend every cent of it?"
"But, Tom dear," said Mrs. Fenelby, "how can I help spending it? You know I am just as economical as I can be. You said yourself that we couldn't live on a cent less than we are spending. You know I would be only too glad to save, if I could, and I didn't get that new dress until you just begged and begged me to get it, and—"
"I know," said Mr. Fenelby, kindly. "I think you do wonders with that twenty-five hundred. I don't see how you do it; I couldn't. And that is just why I say we ought to have a domestic tariff. I don't see how we can ever save enough to send Bobberts to college unless we have some system. We spend every cent of my twenty-five hundred dollars every year, and we could never in the world take two hundred and fifty dollars out of it at one time and put it in the bank for Bobberts, could we? We never have two hundred and fifty dollars at one time. And yet two hundred and fifty dollars is only ten per cent. of my yearly salary. But if I buy a cigar for ten cents it would be no hardship for me to put a cent in the bank for Bobberts, would it? Not a bit! And if you buy an ice cream soda; it would not cramp our finances to put a cent in the bank for each soda, would it? And yet a cent is ten per cent. of a dime."
"That is very simple and very easy," said Mrs. Fenelby, "and I think it would be a very good plan. I think we ought to begin at once."
"So do I," said Mr. Fenelby. "But we don't want to begin a thing like this and then let it slip from our minds after a day or two. If the government did that the nation's revenue would all fade away. We ought to go at it in a business-like way, just as the United States would do it. We ought to write it down, and then live up to it. Now, I'll write it down."
Mr. Fenelby went to his desk and took a seat before it. He opened the desk and pulled from beneath the pile of loose papers and tissue patterns with which it was littered the large blankbook in which Mrs. Fenelby, in one of her spurts of economical system, had once begun a record of household expenditures—a bothersome business that lasted until she had to foot up the first week's figures, and then stopped. There were plenty of blank leaves in the book. Mr. Fenelby dipped his pen in the ink. Mrs. Fenelby took up her sewing, and began to stitch a seam. Bobberts lay asleep on the lounge at the other side of the room.
Mr. Fenelby was not over thirty. His chubby, smiling face radiated enthusiasm, and if he was not very tall he had a noble forehead that rounded up to meet the baldness that began so far back that his hat showed a little half-moon of baldness at the back. He looked cheerfully at the world through rather strong spectacles, and everyone said how much he looked like Bobberts. Mrs. Fenelby was younger, but she took a much more matter-of-fact view of life and things, and Mr. Fenelby never ceased congratulating himself on having married her. "My wife Laura," he would say to his friends, "has great executive ability. She is a wonder. I let her attend to the little details." The truth was that she managed him, and managed the house, and managed all their affairs. She took to the management naturally and Mr. Fenelby did not know that he was being managed. They were very happy.
Mr. Fenelby turned toward his wife suddenly, still holding his pen in his hand. He had not written a word, but his face glowed.
"I tell you, Laura!" he exclaimed. "This is the best idea we have had since we were married! It is a big idea! What we ought to do—what we will do—is to have a family congress and adopt this tariff in the right way, and write it down. That is what we will do—and then, any time we want to change the tariff we will have a session of the family congress, and vote on it."
"That will be nice, Tom," said Mrs. Fenelby, biting off her thread, but not looking up. Mr. Fenelby turned back to his blankbook. He dipped his pen in the ink again, and hesitated.
"How would it do," he asked, turning to Laura again, "to call it the 'United States of Fenelby?' Or the 'Commonwealth of Fenelby?' No!" he exclaimed, "I'll tell you what we will call it—we will call it the 'Commonwealth of Bobberts,' for that is what it is. 'The Domestic Tariff of the Commonwealth of Bobberts!'"
"Yes," said Mrs. Fenelby, holding up her sewing and looking at it with her head tilted to one side, "that will be nice."
Mr. Fenelby wrote it in his blankbook, at the top of the first blank page.
"Fine!" said Mr. Fenelby, growing more enthusiastic as the idea expanded in his mind. "And the congress will be composed of everyone in the family. No taxation without representation, you know—that is the American way of doing things. Everything that comes into the house has to pay a duty, so everyone in the family has a vote, and every so often the congress will meet in the parlor here—"
"Does Bobberts have a vote?" asked Mrs. Fenelby.
"Ah—well, Bobberts is hardly old enough, you know," said Mr. Fenelby hesitatingly. "We will—No," he said with sudden inspiration, "Bobberts will not have a vote. Bobberts will be a Territory! That is it. Grown-ups will be States and infants will be Territories. Bobberts can't vote, but he can attend the meetings of congress and he can have a voice in the debates. He can oppose any measure with his voice—"
"I should think he could!" said Mrs. Fenelby.
Mr. Fenelby turned to his desk and wrote in the book a brief outline of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Bobberts. Mrs. Fenelby creased a tuck into the little dress she was making. She did it by pinning one end of the sheer linen to her knee and then running her thumb up and down the folded tuck. Suddenly the door opened and Bridget entered with aggressive quietness. She was a plain faced Irishwoman, and the way she wore her hair, straight back from her brow, had in itself an air of constant readiness to do battle for her rights. When she was noisy her noise was a challenge, and when she was quiet her quietness was full of mute assertiveness. It was as if, when she wished to enter a room quietly, she was not content to enter it quietly and be satisfied with that, but first prepared for it by draping herself in strings of cow-bells and sleigh-bells, and then entered on tip-toe with painful care.
"Missus Fenelby, ma'am," said Bridget, in a loud whisper, "would ye be havin' th' milkman lave wan or two quarts ov milk in th' mornin'?"
"Why, Bridget," said Mrs. Fenelby, "haven't I told you we always want two quarts?"
"Yis, ma'am," said Bridget. "An' ye can't say that ye haven't got thim iv'ry mornin', either. If ye can, an' wish t' say it, ma'am, ye may as well say it now as another toime. I may have me faults, ma'am—"
"You have always attended to the milkman just as I wished," said Mrs. Fenelby, cheerfully. "Exactly as I wanted you to," she added, for Bridget still waited. "And we will continue to get two quarts a day."
"Very well, ma'am," whispered Bridget. "I was just thinkin' mebby ye had changed yer moind about how much t' git. It is all th' same t' me, Missus Fenelby, ma'am, how much ye git. I am not wan of thim that don't allow th' lady ov th' house t' change her moind if she wants to. I take no offince if she changes her moind. I am used t' sich goin's on, ma'am, an' I know my place an' don't wish t' dictate. Wan quart or two quarts or three quarts is all th' same t' me."
"Bridget," said Mrs. Fenelby, laying down her sewing, "do we need three quarts of milk?"
"No, ma'am," said Bridget.
"Well," asked Mrs. Fenelby, "are two quarts too much?"
"No, ma'am," said Bridget. "But if ye wanted t' change yer moind—"
"Not at all!" said Mrs. Fenelby, kindly but firmly. "Good-night, Bridget."
Bridget backed out of the door, and Mr. Fenelby, who had kept his head close to his book, turned to his wife with a frown on his brow.
"What is it, dear?" asked Mrs. Fenelby, after a fleeting glance at his face.
"Laura," he said, "what shall we do with Bridget?"
Mrs. Fenelby looked up quickly. She quite forgot her sewing.
"Do with Bridget?" she asked. "What do you mean, Tom? Has Bridget said anything about leaving? And I was only this afternoon congratulating myself on how good she was! I declare I don't know what this world is going to do for servants—we pay Bridget more than anyone in this town, I know we do, and treat her like one of the family, almost, and now she is going to leave! It's discouraging! When did she tell you she was going to leave?"
"Leave?" exclaimed Mr. Fenelby. "I never thought of such a thing. I was only wondering what to do with her in—in the Commonwealth of Bobberts."
"Oh!" cried Mrs. Fenelby, with a sigh of profound relief. She took up her sewing again, and bent her head over it. "Is that all! Of course Bridget expects to be treated like one of the family. I told her when she came that I always treated my maids as part of the family."
"But we can't have Bridget come in and sit with us whenever we have a session of congress," said Mr. Fenelby.
"Certainly not!" said Mrs. Fenelby, very decidedly. "I wouldn't think of such a thing!"
"So she can't be a State," said Mr. Fenelby, "and if we made her a Territory it would be as bad. She could come in and talk. She would insist on talking."
"And if we did not let her," said Mrs. Fenelby, "she would leave, and I know we could never get another girl as good as Bridget."
"Now you get some idea of the hard work our forefathers had when they made the United States," said Mr. Fenelby, rising and walking up and down the room. "But of course they had no case like Bridget. Bridget is more like a—more like the Philippines. Well!" he exclaimed, "it is a wonder I didn't think of that in the first place!"
"What, dear?" asked his wife.
"That Bridget is a colony," said Mr. Fenelby. "That is just what she is! She is a foreign possession, controlled by the nation, but having no voice in its affairs. She can pay taxes, but she can't vote."
He hurriedly wrote the final words of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Bobberts in his book and drew a line underneath it, for Bobberts was showing signs of awakening. Under the line Mr. Fenelby wrote "First Session of Congress."
Bobberts awoke in a good humor, ready for his evening meal, and Mrs. Fenelby put aside her sewing and took him.
"I am glad Bobberts is awake," said Mr. Fenelby, "because now we can go ahead and vote on the tariff. I wouldn't like to do it if he was not present, because he has a right to take part in the debate, and it would not be fair to hold the first session without a full representation. Now, suppose we make the duty on all goods and things brought into the house an even ten per cent.?"
"That would be nice," said Mrs. Fenelby, absently, for she was busy with Bobberts. "How much is ten per cent. of twenty-five hundred dollars, Tom?"
"Two hundred and fifty," said Mr. Fenelby, "and that is what we ought to save for Bobberts every year. Ten per cent. will just do it."
He had his pen ready to write it in the book, when a new difficulty came to mind.
"Laura!" he exclaimed. "Ten per cent. will not do it! What about the rent? We spend fifty dollars a month for rent, and that is nothing we bring into the house. And theater tickets, when you go to town and buy them there and use them before you come home. And my lunches. And my club dues. And your pew rent. And ice cream sodas. And all that sort of thing. We couldn't collect a cent of duty on any of those things, because we don't bring them into the house. Ten per cent. is not enough. We ought to make it at least—"
He figured roughly on a sheet of paper, while the other State and the Territory attended strictly to their occupation of feeding the Territory.
"I should say, roughly speaking," said Mr. Fenelby, "that to raise two hundred and fifty dollars a year we ought to make the duty sixteen and three-quarters per cent., but I don't think that is advisable. It would be too hard to figure. I might be able to do it, Laura, but if you bought a waist for one dollar and ninety-eight cents, and had to figure sixteen and three-quarters per cent. on it, I don't believe you could do it."
"The idea!" said Mrs. Fenelby. "I would never think of buying a waist for one dollar and ninety-eight cents. I try to be economical, Tom, but you know you always like me to look well, and those cheap waists do not look well, and they are really dearer in the long run, because they get out of shape in a few days, and never wear well, anyway. The very cheapest waist I have bought for years was that one I got for three dollars and forty-seven cents, and I could have done much better if I had bought the goods and made it up myself."
"Ah—yes," said Mr. Fenelby, hesitatingly. "I am afraid you did not just catch my meaning, Laura. It does not make any difference whether the waist costs one dollar and ninety-eight cents or twelve dollars and sixty-three cents. I mean that it would be a hard job to figure sixteen and three-quarters per cent. of it. Suppose we leave the duty at ten per cent. on necessities, and make it thirty per cent. on luxuries? That ought to make it come out about two hundred and fifty dollars a year, and if it does not we can have a meeting of congress any time and raise the duty."
"That would be very nice," said Mrs. Fenelby.
So it was decided that the tariff duty on necessities was to be ten per cent., and that on luxuries it should be thirty per cent., and Mr. Fenelby wrote down in the book these facts, and the Fenelby Tariff was in effect.
THE BOX OF BON-BONS
The financial arrangements of the Fenelbys were extremely simple. Every week Mr. Fenelby received his salary and brought every cent of it home to Laura. Out of this she handed him back a sum that was unvaryingly the same, and with this Mr. Fenelby paid his car-fares, bought his evening papers, his cigars, and such other little things as a man finds necessary. It was a very small sum, and Mr. Fenelby could not have afforded the pleasures of a club, nor many other things he did afford, had he not been able to add to his purse by writing occasional bits of fiction and jokes for the lighter magazines. Some months this additional money amounted to quite a sum, and when it more than paid his expenses, he would make Laura a little present, but it was understood that this money was his, and that it was something quite outside the regular income of the family, and not to be counted on for household expenses. The result was that sometimes Mr. Fenelby had quite a sum in his pockets, and sometimes he had hard work to make his car-fare money last through the week.
But one thing he never neglected was to bring home to his wife a box of bon-bons every Saturday evening, and one of the things that Mrs. Fenelby flaunted before her female friends was the fact that although she had been married for five years Tom never missed the box of candy. This was the visible sign that his love had not declined, and that he still had a lover's thoughtfulness.
On the Friday after the Fenelby Tariff had been adopted, Mr. Fenelby came home with a box of cigars under his arm. It was his usual box of twenty-five, and the usual brand, for which he paid ten cents each, and after he had kissed Laura he gaily deposited twenty-five cents in Bobberts' bank. This was the first money he had put in the bank under the new tariff laws, and he took an especial pleasure in depositing it. Mrs. Fenelby had put many pennies and nickels in the bank during the week, because she had had to buy a number of things from the vegetable man, and others.
"How much did you put in, dear?" asked Mrs. Fenelby, as she heard the coin rattle down among its fellows.
"A quarter," said Mr. Fenelby, gaily. "I tell you, Laura, that boy will soon have a lot of money if it keeps coming in at that rate. A quarter here, and a quarter there! It is amazing how it mounts up."
"Yes," she answered. "But shouldn't you put in seventy-five cents, Tom? Cigars are a luxury, aren't they? And you know you said luxuries were thirty per cent."
Mr. Fenelby turned quickly.
"Nonsense!" he said. "Any man will tell you that cigars are an absolute necessity. Just as much so as food or drink or clothing. Every one knows that, Laura."
"Why, Tom," said Mrs. Fenelby, "you told me, only last night, when I merely hinted that you were smoking too much, that you could quit any minute you chose, and that it had no hold on you whatever. You said you only smoked a little for the pleasure it gave you, and that there was no danger at all of its ever becoming a necessity to you. Of course, I don't care, for myself, what you put in the bank, but I should not think you would want to rob poor little Bobberts of what he really should have, just because you can twist out of it by claiming—"
There were signs of tears, and Mr. Fenelby cheerfully stepped up and dropped fifty cents more into the bank. It was one of his periods of plenty, and he would have been willing to put dollars into the bank, instead of quarters, rather than have Laura think he was trying to defraud Bobberts. He explained to Laura that all he wanted to know was what he really ought to pay, and then he would pay it cheerfully. Probably all men are like that. They only want to have their taxes assessed fairly, and they will pay them joyfully. One of the prettiest sights imaginable is to see the tax-payers gleefully crowding to pay their taxes. I say imaginable, because it is one of the sights that has to be imagined.
The next evening was warm, and Bobberts was sleeping nicely, so Mrs. Fenelby walked part of the way to the station to meet Tom when he came home, and her eyes brightened when she saw the square parcel that she knew to be the box of candy, in his hand. He kissed her, right there on the street, as suburban husbands are not ashamed to do, and put the box of candy in her hand.
"And what do you think my news is?" he asked, after he had asked about Bobberts. "Brother Bill is coming to make us that visit that he has been promising for ever so long—"
"Tom!" cried Laura. "And what do you think my news is? Kitty is coming to spend two weeks with us! Isn't that the jolliest thing you ever heard of? Both coming at the same time! I wonder if they—"
"Well," said Tom, who generally had a pretty clear idea of what Laura meant to say next, "if they did fall in love with each other, it would not be such a bad match. Your cousin Kitty is as nice as any girl I know, and I rather think Billy isn't such a bad sort. Anyway, they will make it pleasant for each other."
"It will brighten us up all around to have them here," said Mrs. Fenelby. "I wonder whether we ought to make them pay tariff on things. That was the first thing I thought of, when I read that Kitty meant to visit us. It does seem a little like inhospitality, to make them pay tariff."
"Not a bit!" said Tom. "They will like it. It will be a lot of fun for them, and you know it will, Laura. Would we like to be left out of anything of that kind if we were visiting any one? Of course not. I don't know Kitty as well as you do, but speaking for Billy I can say that he would be mighty hurt if we did not treat him just as we treat the rest of the family. He will think it is a jolly game."
"I am not afraid of how Kitty will take it, when I tell her it is all for the benefit of Bobberts. She will be wild about the tariff. The only thing I am afraid of is that she will go and buy things she doesn't need or want, just in order that she can put money in Bobberts' bank," said Mrs. Fenelby. "I told Bridget about the tariff to-day, and she was so interested! Every one I tell about it thinks it is a splendid idea, and wonders how you could think of it."
"I do think of some things that other people do not think of," said Mr. Fenelby, rather proudly; "but that is because I accustom myself to use my brains."
"But it is surprising how a little thing like this tariff counts up!" said Mrs. Fenelby. "My bills this week were fourteen dollars, and I had to put a dollar and forty cents into Bobberts' bank, and then I had to pay Bridget's month's wages to-day, but I didn't have to pay any tariff on that, and I had to pay the gas bill, too; but I didn't have to pay any tariff on that, thank goodness—"
"Of course you have to pay tariff on the gas bill!" exclaimed Mr. Fenelby. "The gas came into the house, didn't it?"
"But you said I didn't have to pay tariff on the rent bill," argued Laura; "and the rent bill is just as much a bill as the gas bill is. You know very well, Tom, that we always figure on those three things as if they were just alike—the rent, and the gas, and Bridget,—and I don't see why, if there is a tariff on gas why there should not be one on rent."
"Rent isn't a thing that comes into the house," explained Mr. Fenelby. "You can't see rent."
"You can't see gas," said Mrs. Fenelby.
"You can see it if it is lighted," said Mr. Fenelby, "and you can smell it any time you want to. Gas is a real object, or thing, and we buy it, and it pays a duty."
"Very well," said Mrs. Fenelby. "Then I ought to pay duty on Bridget, too. She is a real thing, and we pay money for her, just as much as we do for gas, and she is a thing that comes into the house. If I don't pay on Bridget, I don't see why I should pay on the gas. The next thing you will be saying that Bridget is a luxury, and that I ought to pay thirty per cent. on her! Probably I ought to pay a duty on Bobberts! I don't think it is fair that I should pay on everything. I will not pay ten per cent. on the gas bill. Everything seems to come the same day."
"Laura!" exclaimed Mr. Fenelby, with sudden joy, "you don't have to pay on the gas bill this month! I wonder I hadn't thought of it. That gas bill is for gas used before the tariff was adopted! And now that you know about it, you will expect to pay next month."
"I shall warn Bridget again about using so much in the range," said Laura. "We shall have to economize very carefully, Tom. I can see that. The tariff is going to make our living very expensive."
They had reached the house, and had lingered a minute on the porch, and now they went inside, for they heard the dinner-bell tinkle.
"You had better drop eight cents in the bank before you forget it," said Mrs. Fenelby.
"Eight cents?" inquired Tom, quite at a loss to remember what he was to pay eight cents for.
"Eight cents," repeated his wife. "For the candy. It is eighty cents a pound, isn't it? But it is a luxury, isn't it? That would be twenty-four cents!"
"Yes, twenty-four cents," said Tom, smiling. "Twenty-four cents; but I don't pay it. You pay it."
"I pay it!" cried Mrs. Fenelby. "The idea! I didn't buy the candy. I didn't even ask you to buy it, Tom, although I am very glad to have it, and you are a dear to bring it to me. But you are the one to pay for it. You bought it."
"My dear," said Mr. Fenelby, "whoever brings a thing into the house pays the duty on it. I gave you the box of candy when we were a full block from the house, and you accepted it, and it was your property after that, and you brought it into the house, and you must pay the duty on it."
For a moment Mrs. Fenelby was inclined to be hurt, and then she laughed.
"What is it?" her husband asked, as he seated himself at his end of the table, and unfolded his napkin.
"I'll pay the twenty-four cents; but please don't bring me any more candy," she said. "I can't afford presents. But that wasn't what I was laughing about. I just happened to think of Will and Kitty. Will they have to pay duty on their trunks and all the things they have in them? Kitty has the most luxurious dresses, and luxuries pay thirty per cent. If she will have to pay on them perhaps I had better telegraph her to come with only a dress suit-case."
They did not telegraph Kitty. About a week later Kitty arrived, and the next day Billy came, and to each the Fenelbys explained the Fenelby Tariff, on the way up from the station. Both thought it was a splendid idea, and agreed to uphold the tariff law and abide by it and be governed by it, and when Mrs. Fenelby handed Kitty's baggage-checks to Tom and asked him to see that the three trunks were sent over from the city and delivered at the house, Mr. Fenelby had no idea what was in store for him.
When Mr. Fenelby went to the city in the morning he gave Kitty's trunk checks to the expressman. When he returned to his home in the evening he found Kitty and Mrs. Fenelby on the porch, and Mrs. Fenelby was explaining to her visitor, for about the tenth time, the workings of the Fenelby Domestic Tariff. She had explained to Kitty how the tariff had come to be adopted, how it was to supply an education fund for Bobberts—who was at that moment asleep in his crib, upstairs—and how every necessity brought into the house had to pay into Bobberts' bank ten per cent., and every luxury thirty per cent. Kitty was a dear, as was Mrs. Fenelby, but they were as different as cousins could well be, for while Mrs. Fenelby was the man's ideal of a gentle domestic person, Kitty was the man's ideal of a forceful, jolly girl, and as full of liveliness as a well behaved young lady could be. She was properly interested in Bobberts and admired him loudly, but in her heart she was not sorry that Mr. Fenelby's brother Will was to be a visitor at the house during her stay.
She did not show any unmaidenly curiosity in regard to Brother Will, but between doses of Bobberts and Tariff she managed to learn about all Mrs. Fenelby knew regarding Brother Will's past, present and future, including a pretty minute description of his appearance, habits and beliefs.
Brother Will had arrived that very day, and on the way up from the station the Fenelbys had explained to him all about the Domestic Tariff, and also that until a bed could be sent out from the city he would have to find a bed wherever he could, and so it happened that he went right back to the city with Mr. Fenelby, and had not met Kitty, as he preferred to sleep in the city, rather than in the hammock on the porch.
There is an admirable natural honesty in women that prevents them from claiming that their husbands are perfection. In some this is so abnormally developed that, to be on the safe side, I suppose, they will not allow that their husbands have any virtues whatever; in others the trace of this type of honesty is so slight that they will claim to every one, except their dearest friends, that their husbands are the best in the world. The normal wife first announces that her husband is as near perfect as any man can be, and then proceeds to enumerate all his imperfections, bad humors, and annoying habits, under the impression, perhaps, that she is praising him. Mrs. Fenelby had been proceeding in somewhat this way in her conversation with Kitty, under the impression that she was showing Kitty how lovely and domestically perfect was her life, but Kitty gained from it only the impression that Mrs. Fenelby had become the slave of Mr. Fenelby and Bobberts.
The more Mrs. Fenelby explained the workings of the Domestic Tariff the more positive of this did Kitty become. It was Laura who paid all the household bills, and so Laura had to pay the tariff duty on whatever came into the house; it was Laura who had to give up her weekly box of candy because if she received it she had to pay twenty-four cents duty. To Kitty the Fenelby Domestic Tariff seemed to be a scheme concocted by Mr. Fenelby to make Laura provide an education fund for Bobberts. Poor Laura was evidently being misused and did not know it. Poor Laura must be rescued, and given that womanly freedom that women are supposed to long for, even when they don't want it. Poor meek Laura needed some one to put a foot down, and Kitty felt that she had an admirable foot for that or any other purpose. She proposed to put it down.
When Mr. Fenelby entered his yard on his return from the city he stopped short, and then looked up to where the two young women were sitting on the porch.
"Hello!" he said, "What is the matter with these trunks? Wouldn't that expressman carry them upstairs? I declare, those fellows are getting too independent for comfort. Unless you hold a dollar tip out before them they won't so much as turn around. Now, I distinctly told this fellow to carry these three trunks upstairs, and I said I would make it all right with him, and here he leaves them on the lawn. I hope, dear, you were at home when he came."
"Yes, dear," said Mrs. Fenelby, "I was, and you should not blame the poor man. I am sure he tried hard enough to carry them up. He actually insisted on carrying them up whether we wanted them up or not. He was quite rude about it. He said you had told him to carry them up and that he meant to do it whether we let him or not, and—and at last I had to give him a dollar to leave them down here."
"You—you gave him a dollar not to carry these trunks upstairs!" exclaimed Mr. Fenelby. "Did you say you paid the man a dollar not to carry them upstairs?"
"I had to," said Mrs. Fenelby. "It was the only way I could prevent him from doing it. He said you told him to carry them up, and that up they must go, if he had to break down the front door to do it. I think he must have been drinking, Tom, he used such awful language, and at last he got quite maudlin about it and sat down on one of the trunks and cried, actually cried! He said that for years and years he had refused to carry trunks upstairs, and that now, just when he had joined the Salvation Army, and was trying to lead a better life, and be kind and helpful and earn an extra dollar for his family by carrying trunks upstairs when gentlemen asked him to, I had to step in and refuse to let him carry trunks upstairs, and that this was the sort of thing that discouraged a poor man who was trying to make up for his past errors. So I gave him a dollar to leave them down here."
Mr. Fenelby looked at the three big trunks ruefully, and shook his head at them.
"Well," he said, "I suppose it is all right, Laura, but I can't see why you wouldn't let him take them up. You know I don't enjoy that kind of work, and that I don't think it is good for me."
"Kitty didn't want them taken up," said Mrs. Fenelby, gently. "She—she wanted them left down here."
"Down here?" asked Mr. Fenelby, as if dazed. "Down here on the grass?"
"Yes," said Kitty, lightly. "It was my idea. Laura had nothing to do with it at all. I thought it would be nice to have the trunks down here on the lawn. Everywhere I visit they always take my trunks up to my room, and it gets so tiresome always having the same thing happen, so I thought that this time I would have a variety and leave my trunks on the lawn. I never in my life left my trunks on a front lawn, and I wanted to see how it would be. You don't think they will hurt the grass do you, Mr. Fenelby?"
Kitty asked this with such an air of sincerity that Mr. Fenelby seated himself on one of the trunks and looked up at her anxiously. He could not recall that he had ever heard of any weakness of mind in Kitty or in her family, but he could not doubt his ears.
"But—but—" he said, "but you don't mean to leave them here, do you?"
Kitty smiled down at him reassuringly.
"Of course, if it is going to harm the grass at all, Mr. Fenelby, I sha'n't think of it," she said. "I know that sometimes when a board or anything lies on the grass a long time the grass under the board gets all white, and if the trunks are going to make white spots on your lawn, I'll have them removed, but I thought that if we moved the trunks around to different places every day it would avoid that. But you know more about that than I do. Do you think they will make white places on the lawn, Mr. Fenelby?"
"I don't know," he said, abstractedly. "I mean, yes, of course they will. But they will get rained on. You don't want your trunks rained on, you know. Trunks aren't meant to be rained on. It isn't good for them." A thought came to him suddenly. "You and Laura haven't quarreled, have you?" he asked, for he thought that perhaps that was why Kitty would not have her trunks carried up.
"Indeed not!" cried Kitty, putting her arm affectionately around Laura's waist.
"I—I thought perhaps you had," faltered Mr. Fenelby. "I thought—that is to say—I was afraid perhaps you were going away again. I thought you were going to make us a good, long visit—"
"Indeed I am," said Kitty, cheerfully. "I am going to stay weeks, and weeks, and weeks. I am going to stay until you are all tired to death of me, and beg me to begone."
"That is good," said Mr. Fenelby, with an attempt at pleasure. "But don't you think, since you are going to do what we want you to do, and stay for weeks, and weeks, and weeks, that you had better let your trunks be taken up to your room? Or—I'll tell you what we'll do! Suppose we just take the trunks into the lower hall?"
He felt pretty certainly, now, that Kitty must have had a little touch of, say, sunstroke, or something of that kind, and he went on in a gently argumentative tone.
"Just into the lower hall," he said. "That would be different from having them in your room, and it would save my grass. I worked hard to get this lawn looking as it does now, Kitty, and I cannot deny that big trunks like these will not do it any good. Let us say we will put the trunks in the lower hall. Then they will be safe, too. No one can steal them there. A front lawn is a rather conspicuous place for trunks. And what will the neighbors say, too, if we leave the trunks on the lawn? Why shouldn't we put the trunks in the lower hall?"
"Well," said Kitty, "I can't afford it, that is why. Really, Mr. Fenelby, I can't afford to have those three trunks brought into the house."
"And yet," said Mr. Fenelby, with just the slightest hint of impatience, "you girls could afford to give the man a dollar not to take them in! That is woman's logic!"
"Oh! a dollar!" said Kitty. "If it was only a matter of a dollar! I hope you don't think, Mr. Fenelby, that I travel with only ten dollars' worth of baggage! No, indeed! I simply cannot afford to pay ten per cent. duty on what is in those trunks, and so I prefer to let them remain on the lawn. I wrote Laura that I expected to be treated as one of the family while I was visiting her, and if the Domestic Tariff is part of the way the family is treated I certainly expect to live up to it. Now, don't blame Laura, for she was not only willing to have the trunks come in without paying duty, but insisted that they should."
Mr. Fenelby looked very grave. He was in a perplexing situation. He certainly did not wish to appear inhospitable, and yet Laura had had no right to say that the trunks could enter the house duty free. The only way such an unusual alteration in the Domestic Tariff could be made was by act of the Family Congress, and he very well knew that if once the matter of revising the tariff was taken up it was beyond the ken of man where it would end. He preferred to stand pat on the tariff as it had been originally adopted.
"I told her," said Kitty, "that she had no right to throw off the duty on my trunks, at all, and that I wouldn't have it, and I didn't."
"Well, Tom," said Mrs. Fenelby, "you know perfectly well that we can't leave those trunks out on the lawn. It would not only be absolutely foolish to do that, but cruel to Kitty. A girl simply can't visit away from home without trunks, and it is absolutely necessary that Kitty should have her trunks."
"'Necessities, ten per cent.,'" quoted Kitty.
"But, my dear," said Mr. Fenelby, softly, "we really can't break all our household rules just because Kitty has brought three trunks, can we? Kitty does not expect us to do that, and I think she looks at it in a very rational manner. I like the spirit she has evinced."
"Very well, then," said Mrs. Fenelby, "you must find some way to take care of those trunks, for we cannot leave them on the lawn."
"Why can't we take them to some neighbor's house?" asked Kitty. "I am sure some neighbor would be glad to store them for me for awhile. Aren't you on good terms with your neighbors, Laura?"
"The Rankins might take them," said Laura, thoughtfully. "They have that vacant room, you know, Tom. They might not mind letting us put them in there."
"I don't know the Rankins," said Kitty, "but I am sure they are perfectly lovely people, and that they would not mind in the least."
"I know they wouldn't," said Mr. Fenelby. "Rankin would be glad to do something of that sort to repay me for the number of times he has borrowed my lawn-mower. I will step over after dinner and ask him."
"Are you sure, very sure, that you do not mind, Kitty?" asked Mrs. Fenelby. "You will not feel hurt, or anything?"
"Oh, no!" said Kitty, lightly. "It will be a lark. I never in my life went visiting with three trunks, and then had them stored in another house. It will be quite like being shipwrecked on a desert island, to get along with one shirt-waist and one handkerchief."
"It will not be quite that bad, you know," said Mr. Fenelby, with the air of a man stating a great discovery, "because, don't you see, you can open your trunks at the Rankins', and bring over just as many things as you think you can afford to pay on."
For some reason that Mr. Fenelby could not fathom Kitty laughed merrily at this, and then they all went in to dinner. It was a very good dinner, of the kind that Bridget could prepare when she was in the humor, and they sat rather longer over it than usual, and then Mr. Fenelby proposed that he should step over to the Rankins' and arrange about the storage of Kitty's trunks, and on thinking it over he decided that he had better step down to the station and see if he could not get a man to carry the trunks across the street and up the Rankins' stairs. As they filed out of the house upon the porch, Kitty suddenly decided that it was a beautiful evening for a little walk, and that nothing would please her so much as to walk to the station with Mr. Fenelby, if Laura would be one of the party, and after running up to see that Bobberts was all right, Laura said that she would go, and they started. As they were crossing the street to the Rankins' Kitty suddenly turned back.
"You two go ahead," she said. "The air will do you good, Laura. I have something I want to do," and she ran back.
She entered the house, and looked out of the window until she saw the Fenelbys go into the Rankins' and come out again, and saw them start to the station, but as soon as they were out of sight she dashed down the porch steps and threw open the lids of her trunks. Never in the history of trunks was the act of unpacking done so quickly or so recklessly. She dived into the masses of fluffiness and emerged with great armfuls, and hurried them into the house, up the stairs, and into her closet, and was down again for another load. If she had been looting the trunks she could not have worked more hurriedly, or more energetically, and when the last armful had been carried up she slammed the lids and turned the keys, and sank in a graceful position on the lower porch step.
Mr. and Mrs. Fenelby returned with leisurely slowness of pace, the station loafer and man-of-little-work slouching along at a respectful distance behind them. Kitty greeted them with a cheerful frankness of face. The man-of-little-work looked at the three big trunks as if their size was in some way a personal insult to him. He tried to assume the look of a man who had been cozened away from his needed rest on false pretences.
"I didn't know as the trunks was as big as them," he drawled. "If I'd knowed they was, I wouldn't of walked all the way over here. Fifty cents ain't no fair price for carryin' three trunks, the size and heft of them, across—well, say this is a sixty foot street—say, eighty feet, and up a flight of stairs. I don't say nothin', but I'll leave it to the ladies."
"Fifty cents!" cried Kitty. "I should think not! Why, I didn't imagine you would do it for less than a dollar. I mean to pay you a dollar."
"That's right," said the man. "You see I have to walk all the way back to the station when I git through, too. My time goin' and comin' is worth something."
He bent down and took the largest trunk by one handle, to heave it to his back, and as he touched the handle the trunk almost arose into the air of its own accord. The man straightened up and looked at it, and a strange look passed across his face, but he closed his mouth and said nothing.
"Would you like a lift?" asked Mr. Fenelby.
"No," said the man shortly. "I know how to handle trunks, I do," and it certainly seemed that he did, for he swung it to his back with all the grace of a Sandow, and started off with it. Mr. Fenelby looked at him with surprise.
"Now, isn't that one of the oddities of nature?" said Mr. Fenelby. "That fellow looks as if he had no strength at all, and see how he carries off that trunk as if there was not a thing in it. I suppose it is a knack he has. Now, see how hard it is for me merely to lift one end of this smallest one."
But before he could touch it Kitty had grasped him by the arm.
"Oh, don't try it!" she cried. "Please don't! You might hurt your back."
A few minutes before noon the next day Billy Fenelby dropped into Mr. Fenelby's office in the city and the two men went out to lunch together. It would be hard to imagine two brothers more unlike than Thomas and William Fenelby, for if Thomas Fenelby was inclined to be small in stature and precise in his manner, William was all that his nickname of Billy implied, and was not so many years out of his college foot-ball eleven, where he had won a place because of his size and strength. Billy Fenelby, after having been heroized by innumerable girls during his college years, had become definitely a man's man, and was in the habit of saying that his girly-girl days were over, and that he would walk around a block any day to escape meeting a girl. He was not afraid of girls, and he did not hate them, but he simply held that they were not worth while. The truth was that he had been so petted and worshiped by them as a star foot-ball player that the attention they paid him, as an ordinary young man not unlike many other young men out of college, seemed tame by comparison. No doubt he had come to believe, during his college days, that the only interesting thing a girl could do was to admire a man heartily, and in the manner that only foot-ball players and matinee idols are admired, so that now, when he had no particular claim to admiration, girls had become, so far as he was concerned, useless affairs.
"Now, about this girl-person that you have over at your house," he said to his brother, when they were seated at their lunch, "what about her?"
"About her?" asked Mr. Fenelby. "How do you mean?"
"What about her?" repeated Billy. "You know how I feel about the girl-business. I suppose she is going to stay awhile?"
"Kitty? I think so. We want her to. But you needn't bother about Kitty. She won't bother you a bit. She's the right sort, Billy. Not like Laura, of course, for I don't believe there is another woman anywhere just like Laura, but Kitty is not the ordinary flighty girl. You should hear her appreciate Bobberts. She saw his good points, and remarked about them, at once, and the way she has caught the spirit of the Domestic Tariff that I was telling you about is fine! Most girls would have hemmed and hawed about it, but she didn't! No, sir! She just saw what a fine idea it was, and when she saw that she couldn't afford to have her three trunks brought into the house she proposed that she leave them at a neighbor's. Did not make a single complaint. Don't worry about Kitty."
"That is all right about the tariff," said Billy. "I can't say I think much of that tariff idea myself, but so long as it is the family custom a guest couldn't do any less than live up to it. But I don't like the idea of having to spend a number of weeks in the same house with any girl. They are all bores, Tom, and I know it. A man can't have any comfort when there is a girl in the house. And between you and me that Kitty girl looks like the kind that is sure to be always right at a fellow's side. I was wondering if Laura would think it was all right if I stayed in town here?"
"No, she wouldn't," said Tom shortly. "She would be offended, and so would I. If you are going to let some nonsense about girls being a bore,—which is all foolishness—keep you away from the house, you had better—Why," he added, "it is an insult to us—to Laura and me—just as if you said right out that the company we choose to ask to our home was not good enough for you to associate with. If you think our house is going to bore you—"
"Now, look here, old man," said Billy, "I don't mean that at all, and you know I don't. I simply don't like girls, and that is all there is to it. But I'll come. I'll have my trunk sent over and—Say, do I have to pay duty on what I have in my trunk?"
"Certainly," said Mr. Fenelby. "That is, of course, if you want to enter into the spirit of the thing. It is only ten per cent., you know, and it all goes into Bobberts' education fund."
Billy sat in silent thought awhile.
"I wonder," he said at length, "how it would do if I just put a few things into my suit-case—enough to last me a few days at a time—and left my trunk over here. I don't need everything I brought in that trunk. I was perfectly reckless about putting things in that trunk. I put into that trunk nearly everything I own in this world, just because the trunk was so big that it would hold everything, and it seemed a pity to bring a big trunk like that with nothing in it but air. Now, I could take my suit-case and put into it the things I will really need—"
"Certainly," said Mr. Fenelby. "You can do that if you want to, and it would be perfectly fair to Bobberts. All Bobberts asks is to be paid a duty on what enters the house. He don't say what shall be brought in, or what shall not. Personally, Billy, I would call the duty off, so far as you are concerned, but I don't think Laura would like it. We started this thing fair, and we are all living up to it. Laura made Kitty live up to it and you can see it would not be right for me to make an exception in your case just because you happen to be my brother."
"No," agreed Billy, "it wouldn't. I don't ask it. I will play the game and I will play it fair. All I ask is: If I bring a suit-case, do I have to pay on the case? Because if I do, I won't bring it. I can wrap all I need in a piece of paper, and save the duty on the suit-case. I believe in playing fair, Tom, but that is no reason why I should be extravagant."
"I think," said Tom, doubtfully, "suit-cases should come in free. Of course, if it was a brand new suit-case it would have to pay duty, but an old one—one that has been used—is different. It is like wrapping-paper. The duty is assessed on what the package contains and not on the package itself. If it is not a new suit-case you will not have to pay duty on it."
"Then my suit-case will go in free," said Billy. "It is one of the first crop of suit-cases that was raised in this country, and I value it more as a relic than as a suit-case. I carry it more as a souvenir than as a suit-case."
"Souvenirs are different," said Mr. Fenelby. "Souvenirs are classed as luxuries, and pay thirty per cent. If you consider it a souvenir it pays duty."
"I will consider it a suit-case," said Billy promptly. "I will consider it a poor old, worn-out suit-case."
"I think that would be better," agreed Mr. Fenelby. "But we will have to wait and see what Laura considers it."
As on the previous evening the ladies were on the porch, enjoying the evening air, when Mr. Fenelby reached home, with Billy in tow, and Billy greeted them as if he had never wished anything better than to meet Miss Kitty.
"Where is this custom house Tom has been telling me about?" he asked, as soon as the hand shaking was over. "I want to have my baggage examined. I have dutiable goods to declare. Who is the inspector?"
"Laura is," said Kitty. "She is the slave of the grinding system that fosters monopoly and treads under heel the poor people."
"All right," said Billy, "I declare one collar. I wish to bring one collar into the bosom of this family. I have in this suit-case one collar. I never travel without one extra collar. It is the two-for-a-quarter kind, with a name like a sleeping car, and it has been laundered twice, which brings it to the verge of ruin. How much do I have to pay on the one collar?"
"Collars are a necessity," said Mrs. Fenelby, "and they pay ten per—"
"What a notion!" exclaimed Kitty. "Collars are not a necessity. Collars are an actual luxury, especially in warm weather. Many very worthy men never wear a collar at all, and would not think of wearing one in hot weather. They are like jewelry or—or something of that sort. Collars certainly pay thirty per cent."
"I reserve the right to appeal," said Billy. "Those are the words of an unjust judge. But how much do I take off the value of the collar because two thirds of its life has been laundered away? How much is one third of twelve and a half?"
"Now, that is pure nonsense," Kitty said, "and I sha'n't let poor, dear little Bobberts be robbed in any such way. That collar cost twelve and a half cents, and it has had two and a half cents spent on it twice, so it is now a seventeen and a half cent collar, and thirty per cent. of that is—is—"
"Oh, if you are going to rob me!" exclaimed Billy. "I don't care. I can get along without a collar. I will bring out a sweater to-morrow."
"Sweaters pay only ten per cent.," said Kitty sweetly. "What else have you in your suit-case?"
"Air," said Billy. "Nothing but air. I didn't think I could afford to bring anything else, and I will leave the collar out here. I open the case—I take out the collar—I place it gently on the porch railing—and I take the empty suit-case into the house. I pay no duty at all, and that is what you get for being so grasping."
Mr. Fenelby shook his head.
"You can't do that, Billy," he said. "That puts the suit-case in another class. It isn't a package for holding anything now, and it isn't a necessity—because you can't need an empty suit-case—so it doesn't go in at ten per cent., so it must be a luxury, and it pays thirty per cent."
"That suit-case," said Billy, looking at it with a calculating eye, "is not worth thirty per cent. of what it is worth. It is worthless, and I wouldn't give ten per cent. of nothing for it. It stays outside. So I pay nothing. I go in free. Unless I have to pay on myself."
"You don't have to," said Kitty, "although I suppose Laura and Tom think you are a luxury."
"Don't you think I am one?" asked Billy.
"No, I don't," said Kitty frankly, "and when you know me better, you will not ask such a foolish question. Where ever I am, there a young man is a necessity."
THE PINK SHIRT-WAIST
The morning after Billy Fenelby's arrival at the Fenelby home he awakened unusually early, as one is apt to awaken in a strange bed, and he lay awhile thinking over the events of the previous evening. He was more than ever convinced that Kitty was not the kind of girl he liked. He felt that she had made a bare-faced effort to flirt with him the evening before, and that she was just the kind of a girl that was apt to be troublesome to a bachelor. She was the kind of a girl that would demand a great deal of attention and expect it as a natural right, and then, when she received it, make the man feel that he had been attentive in quite another way, and that the only fair thing would be to propose. And he felt that she was the kind of girl that no man could propose to with any confidence whatever. She would be just as likely to accept him as not, and having accepted him, she would be just as likely to expect him to marry her as not. He felt that he was in a very ticklish situation. He saw that Kitty was the sort of girl that would take any air of rude indifference he might assume to be a challenge, and any comely polite attention to be serious love making. He saw that the only safe thing for him to do would be to run away, but, since he had seen Kitty, that was the last thing in the world that he would have thought of doing. He decided that he would constitute her bright eyes and red lips to be a mental warning sign reading "Danger" in large letters, and that whenever he saw them he would be as wary as a rabbit and yet as brave as a lion.
He next felt a sincere regret that he had refused to pay the duty on the clean collar he had brought with him, and that he had left on the railing of the porch. He got out of bed and looked at the collar he had worn the day before, and frowned at it as he saw that it was not quite immaculate. Then he listened closely for any sound in the house that would tell him Mr. or Mrs. Fenelby were up. He heard nothing. He hastily slipped on his clothes, and tip-toed out of the room and down the stairs. This tariff for revenue only was well enough for Thomas and Laura, and assessing a duty of ten per cent. on everything that came into the house (and thirty per cent. on luxuries) might fill up Bobberts' bank, and provide that baby with an education fund, but it was an injustice to bachelor uncles when there was an unmarried girl in the house. If this Kitty girl was willing to so forget what was due to a young man as to appear in one dress the whole time of her stay, that was her look-out, but for his part he did not intend to lower his dignity by going down to breakfast in a soiled collar. If creeping down to the porch in his stockings, and bringing in that collar surreptitiously, was smuggling, then—
Billy stopped short at the screen door. From there he could see the spot on the railing where he had put the collar, and the collar was not there! No doubt it had fallen to the lawn. He opened the screen door carefully and stepped outside. The early morning air was cool and sweet, and an ineffable quiet rested on the suburb. He tip-toed gently across the porch and down the porch steps, and hobbled carefully across the painful pebble walk and stepped upon the lawn. There was dew on the lawn. The lawn was soaked and saturated and steeped in dew. It bathed his feet in chilliness, as if he had stepped into a pail of ice water, and the vines that clambered up the porch-side were dewy too. As he kneeled on the grass and pawed among the vines, seeking the missing collar, the vines showered down the crystal drops upon him, and soaked his sleeves, and added a finishing touch of ruin to the collar he was wearing. The other collar was not there! It was not among the vines, it was not on the lawn, it was not on the porch, and soaked in socks and sleeves he retreated. He paused a minute on the porch to glance thoughtfully at the moist foot-prints his feet left on the boards, and wondered if they would be dry before Tom or Laura came down. At any rate there was no help for it now, and he went up the stairs again.
The most uncomfortable small discomfort is wet socks, whether they come from a small hole in the bottom of a shoe or from walking on a lawn in the early morning, and Billy wiggled his toes as he slowly and carefully climbed the stairs. As he turned the last turn at the top he stopped short and blushed. Kitty was standing there awaiting him, a smile on her face and his other collar in her hand. She laid her finger on her lip, and tapped it there to command silence, and raised her brows at him, to let him know that she knew where he had been and why.
"I thought you would want it," she said in the faintest whisper, "so I smuggled it in last night. I had no idea you would stoop to such a thing, but—but I felt so sorry for you, without a collar."
"Thanks!" whispered Billy. It was a masterpiece of whispering, that word. It was a gruff whisper, warding off familiarity, and yet it was a grateful whisper, as a whisper should be to thank a pretty girl for a favor done, but still it was a scoffing whisper, with a tinge of resentfulness, but resentfulness tempered by courtesy. Underlying all this was a flavor of independence, but not such crude independence that it killed the delicate tone that implied that the hearer of the whisper was a very pretty girl, and that that fact was granted even while her interference in the whisperer's affairs was misliked, and her suspicions of dishonest acts on his part considered uncalled for. If he did not quite succeed in getting all this crowded into the one word it was doubtless because his feet were so wet and uncomfortable. Billy was rather conscious that he had not quite succeeded, and he would have tried again, adding this time an inflection to mean that he well understood that her object was to get him into a quasi conspiracy and thus draw him irrevocably into confidential relations of misdemeanor from which he could not escape, but that he refused to be so drawn—I say he would have repeated the word, but a sound in one of the bed-rooms close at hand sent them both tip-toeing to their rooms.
They had hardly reached safety when the door of Mr. Fenelby's room opened and Mr. Fenelby stole out quietly, stole as quietly down the stairs and out upon the porch. He looked at the railing where Billy had left the collar, and then he peered over the railing, and as silently stole up the stairs again. He paused at Billy's door and tapped on it. Billy opened it a mere hint of a crack.
"What is it?" he whispered.
"That collar," whispered Mr. Fenelby. "I thought about it all night, and I didn't think it right that you should be made to do without it. I just went down, to get it, but it isn't there."
"Never mind," whispered Billy. "Don't worry, old man. I will wear the one I have."
Mr. Fenelby hesitated.
"Of course," he whispered, "you won't—That is to say, you needn't tell Laura I went down—"
"Certainly not," whispered Billy. "It was awfully kind of you to think of it. But I'll make this one do."
Mr. Fenelby waited at the door a moment longer as if he had something more to say, but Billy had closed the door, and he went back to his room.
It was with relief that Bridget heard the door close behind Mr. Fenelby. She had been standing on the little landing of the back-stairs, where he had almost caught her as she was coming up. If she had been one step higher he would have seen her head. Usually she would not have minded this, for she had a perfect right to be on the back-stairs in the early morning, but this time she felt that it was her duty to remain undiscovered. Now that Mr. Fenelby was gone she softly stepped to Billy's door and knocked lightly.
"Misther Billy, sor, are ye there?" she whispered. Billy opened the door a crack and looked out.
"Mornin' to ye," she said in a hoarse whisper. "I'm sorry t' disthurb ye, but Missus Fenelby axed me t' bring up th' collar ye left on th' porrch railin', an' t' let no wan know I done it, an' I just wanted t' let ye know th' reason I have not brung it up is because belike someone else has brang it already, for it is gone."
"Thank you, Bridget," whispered Billy. "It doesn't matter."
She turned away, but when he had closed the door she paused, and after hesitating a moment she tapped on his door again. He opened it.
"I have put me foot in it," she said, "like I always do. W'u'd ye be so good as t' fergit I mentioned th' name of Missus Fenelby, that's a dear man? I raymimber now I was not t' mention it t' ye."
"Certainly, Bridget," said Billy, and he closed the door and went again to the window, where he was turning his socks over and over in the streak of sunlight that warmed a part of the window sill.
It took the socks a little longer to dry than he had thought it would, and they were still damp enough to make his feet feel anything but comfortable when he heard the breakfast bell tinkle faintly. He hurried the rest of his toilet and went down the stairs, assuming as he went the air of unsuspected innocence that is the inborn right of every man who knows he has done wrong. The bodily Billy was more conscious of the discomfort of his feet, but the mental Billy was all collar. He had never known a collar to be so obtrusive. He felt that he must seem all collar, even to the most casual eye, but he was upheld by the belief that no one would dare to mention collar to him in public. If he had sinned he was not the only sinner, for he was but a partner in conspiracy. He walked down the stairs boldly.
"And to think that his vanity should be the cause of robbing poor little Bobberts," he heard a clear voice say as he neared the dining room door. "It is too mean! I can never look up to man with the faith I have always had in man, after this. But I know they were his foot-prints, Laura."
"Are you so sure, Kitty?" asked Mrs. Fenelby. "Mightn't they be—mightn't they be Bridget's?"
"They were not," said the voice of Kitty, and Billy paused where he was and stood still. "Bridget does not go about in the wet grass in her stocking feet. Those were Billy's tracks on the porch. I am no Sherlock Holmes, but I can tell you just what he did. He stole down before we were awake, to look for that collar, and he did not find it on the railing where he had left it. Then he saw it where it had fallen and he went down on the wet lawn and got it. Watch him when he comes in to breakfast. He will be wearing a collar, and it will not be the one he wore last night."
Billy turned and tip-toed softly up the stairs again, undoing his tie as he went. When he came down his neck was neatly, but informally swathed in a white handkerchief. Three pairs of eyes watched him as he entered, but he faced them unflinchingly. Mr. and Mrs. Fenelby let their eyes drop before his glance, but Kitty met his gaze with a challenge. There was nothing of treachery in her face, and yet she had sought to betray him. He looked at her with greater interest than he had ever known himself to feel regarding any girl, and as he looked he had a startled sense that she was fairer than she had been, and he caught his breath quickly and began to talk to Mrs. Fenelby.
"Tom," he said, after breakfast, as Mr. Fenelby was getting ready to leave to catch his train, "I think I'll walk over to the station with you. I have something I want to say to you."
"Come along," said Mr. Fenelby. "But you will have to walk quickly. I have just time to catch my train."
"Did you notice anything peculiar about Miss Kitty this morning?" asked Billy, when they had left the house.
"Peculiar?" said Mr. Fenelby. "No, I don't think so."
"Well, I don't want to make trouble, Tom," said Billy, "but I think I ought to speak about this thing. If it wasn't serious I wouldn't mention it at all, but I think you ought to know what is going on in your own house. I think you ought to know what kind of a girl Miss Kitty is, so that you can be on your guard. Now, you went down to get that collar for me, didn't you?"
"I wish you wouldn't mention that," said Mr. Fenelby with some annoyance.
"Oh, I know all about that," said Billy, warmly. "You say that because you don't like to be thanked for all these nice, thoughtful things you do for a fellow. But I do thank you—just as much as if you had found the collar and had brought it up to me. That was all right. You would have paid the duty on it, and that would have been all right. But what do you think Miss Kitty did? Why do you think you could not find that collar? Do you know what she did? She brought that collar into the house—smuggled it in—and she had the nerve, the actual nerve, to give it to me. And I took it. I couldn't do anything else, could I, when a girl offered it to me? I couldn't say I wouldn't take it, could I? I had to be a gentleman about it. And then she tried to get me into trouble by telling you I would come down to breakfast wearing that collar. She tried to make out that I was a smuggler."
"I suppose it was just a bit of fun," said Mr. Fenelby. "Girls are that way, some of them."
"Well, I want it understood that that collar is in the house, and that I didn't bring it in," said Billy, "and that if this Domestic Tariff business is to be carried out fairly it is Miss Kitty's business to pay the duty on it. I want to set myself right with you. But the thing I wanted to speak about was far more serious. Do you know what she had on this morning?"
"What she had on?" asked Mr. Fenelby. "What did she have on?"
"She had on a pink shirt-waist," said Billy fiercely. "That is what she had on. Right at breakfast there, in plain sight of everyone. A pink shirt-waist!"
"Well, that's all right, isn't it?" asked Mr. Fenelby, doubtfully. "It's proper to wear a pink shirt-waist at breakfast, isn't it? I think Laura wears shirt-waists at breakfast sometimes. I'm sure it's all right. An informal home breakfast like that."
"But it was pink," insisted Billy. "I looked right at it, and I know. Real pink. You wouldn't notice it, because you are so honest yourself, and so confiding, but I noticed it the first thing. Now what do you think of your Miss Kitty? What do you say to that—a girl coming right down to breakfast in a pink shirt-waist, right before the whole family?"
"I—I don't know what to say," faltered Mr. Fenelby, and this was the truth, for he did not.
"Well, what would you say if I told you that she had on a white shirt-waist last evening—a white one with fluffy stuff all around the collar?" asked Billy. "Wouldn't you say that that proved it?"
"I don't see anything wrong in that," said Mr. Fenelby. "What does it prove?"
"It proves that she has two shirt-waists," said Billy, seriously, "that is what it proves. Two shirt-waists, a white one and a pink one, one for dinner and one for breakfast. I don't blame you for not noticing it, but I am strong that way. I notice colors and trimmings and all that sort of thing. And I tell you she has two. I saw them both and I know it. If that isn't serious I don't know what is."
"Well?" said Mr. Fenelby.
"Well," echoed Billy, "she is only supposed to have one. She only paid duty on one, and she has two. That is what I call real smuggling. And nobody knows how many more she has. Dozens for all I know. Imagine her talking about my one poor old last year's collar, and then flaunting around in two shirt-waists right before our eyes. I call that pretty serious. I'm going to watch her. You can't be here all day to do it, but I haven't anything else to do, and I'm going to stay right around her all day and find out about this thing."
"If you don't want to—" began Mr. Fenelby, remembering Billy's protestations of dislike for girls.
"I'll do my duty by you and Bobberts, old man," said Billy, generously.
"I was only going to say that Laura could look out for that sort of thing," said Mr. Fenelby. "I might say a word to her."
"Well, now, I didn't like to bring that part of it up," said Billy, "but since you mention it, I guess I had better say the whole thing. It isn't natural that a woman shouldn't notice what another woman has on, is it? They are all keen on that sort of thing. I don't say Laura is standing in with Kitty on this shirt-waist smuggling. I suppose it worries her terribly to see Kitty smuggling clothes in right under her nose, but how can Laura say anything about it? Kitty is her guest, isn't she? You leave it to me!"
Just then they reached the station and the train arrived and Mr. Fenelby jumped aboard, and as it pulled out Billy turned and walked back to the house.
When the Commonwealth of Bobberts had adopted the Fenelby Domestic Tariff it had been Mrs. Fenelby's duty to inform Bridget of it, and to explain it to her, and for two days Mrs. Fenelby worried about it. It was only by exercising the most superhuman wiles that a servant could be persuaded to sojourn in the suburb. To hold one in thrall it was necessary to practice the most consummate diplomacy. The suburban servant knows she is a rare and precious article, and she is apt to be headstrong and independent, and so she must be driven with a tight rein and strong hand, and yet she is so apt to leave at a moment's notice if anything offends her, that she must be driven with a light rein and a hand as light and gentle as a bit of thistledown floating on a zephyr. This is a hard combination to attain. It is like trying to drive a skittish and headstrong horse, densely constructed of lamp-chimneys and window glass, down a rough cobble-stoned hill road. If given the rein the glass horse will dash madly to flinders, and if the rein is held taut the horse's glass head will snap off and the whole business go to crash. No juggler keeping alternate cannon-balls and feathers in the air ever exercised greater nicety of calculation than did Mrs. Fenelby in her act of at once retaining and restraining Bridget.
To go boldly into the kitchen and announce to Bridget that she would hereafter be expected to pay into Bobberts' bank ten per cent. of the value of every necessity and thirty per cent. of the value of every luxury she brought into the house was the last thing that Mrs. Fenelby would have thought of doing. There were bits in that rough sketch of human nature known as Bridget's character that did not harmonize with the idea. There had been nothing said, when Bridget had been engaged, about a domestic tariff. Paying one is not usually considered a part of a general house-worker's duties, and Mrs. Fenelby felt that it would be poor policy to break this news to Bridget too abruptly. She used diplomacy.
"Bridget," she said, kindly, "we are very well satisfied with the way you do your work. We like you very well indeed."
"Thank ye, ma'am," answered Bridget, "and I'm glad to hear ye say it, though it makes little odds t' me. I do the best I know how, ma'am, and if ye don't like the way I do, there is plenty of other ladies would be glad t' get me."
"But we do like the way you do," said Mrs. Fenelby eagerly. "We are perfectly satisfied—perfectly!"
"From th' way ye started off," said Bridget, with a shrug of her shoulders, "I thought ye was goin' t' give me th' bounce. Some does it that way."
"No, indeed," Mrs. Fenelby assured her. "Especially not as you take such an interest in dear little Bobberts. You seem to like him as well as if he was your own little brother. Did I tell you what Mr. Fenelby had planned for him?"
"Somethin' t' make more worrk for me, is it?" asked Bridget suspiciously.
"Not at all!" said Mrs. Fenelby. "It is just about his education; about when he gets old enough to go to college."
"'Twill be a long time from now before then," said Bridget. "I can see it has nawthin' to do with me."
"But that is just it," said Mrs. Fenelby. "It has something to do with you—and with all of us. With everyone in this house. You love little Bobberts so much that you will be glad to help in his education."
"Will I?" said Bridget in a way that was not too encouraging.
"Yes, I know you will," Mrs. Fenelby chirped cheerfully, "because it is the cutest plan. I know you will be so interested in it. Mr. Fenelby thought of it himself, and he told me to tell you about it, because, really, you know, you are just like one of the family—"
"Barring I have t' be in at ten o'clock and have t' sleep in th' attic," Bridget interposed. "And don't eat with th' family. And a few other differences. But go ahead and tell me what is th' extry worrk."
"Well, it isn't extra work at all," said Mrs. Fenelby reassuringly. "It is just a way we thought of to raise money to pay for Bobberts' education. It is like a government and taxes, and everybody in the family pays part of the taxes—"
"I was wonderin' why I was one of the family so much, all of a suddent," said Bridget. "I thought something was comin'. I notice that whenever I get to be one of th' family, ma'am, where ever I happen t' be workin', something comes. But it never has been taxes before. It is a new one to me, taxes is."
Mrs. Fenelby explained as clearly as she could the meaning and method of the Fenelby Domestic Tariff, and its simple schedule of rates, and Bridget listened attentively. Mrs. Fenelby expected an explosion, and was prepared for it.
"I'm sure I'm much obliged t' ye, Missus Fenelby," said Bridget, sarcastically, "an' 'tis a great honor ye are doin' me t' take me into th' family this way, but 'tis agin me principles t' be one of th' family on sixteen dollars a month when there is tariffs in th' same family. I'm thinkin' I'll stay outside th' family, ma'am. An' if ye will kindly let me past, I'll go up an' be packin' up me trunk."
"But Bridget," Mrs. Fenelby said, quickly, "I am not through yet. I knew you couldn't afford to pay the—the tariff. I didn't expect you to, out of your wages. And if you had just waited a minute I was going to tell you that, seeing that you will be out of pocket by the tariff, I am going to pay you eighteen dollars a month after this."
"Well, of course," said Bridget with a sweet smile, "I was only jokin' about me trunk."
So that was all settled, and Mrs. Fenelby felt at ease, but she did not think it necessary to tell her husband about the extra two dollars a month. It came out of her housekeeping money, and she could economize a little on something else.
"Laura," said her husband that evening, "have you spoken to Bridget about the tariff yet?"
"Yes, dear," she answered, and he said that was right, and that she must see that Bridget lived up to it. But he did not tell her that he had interviewed Bridget while Mrs. Fenelby was upstairs a few minutes before, nor that he had privately agreed with Bridget to pay her two dollars a month extra out of his own pocket provided she accepted the Fenelby Domestic Tariff, and abided by it, just as if she was one of the family. Neither did Bridget think it worth while to mention it to Mrs. Fenelby. From the time she was informed of the existence of the tariff up to the arrival of Kitty Bridget paid into Bobberts' bank twenty cents. This was the duty on a two dollar hat that even the most critical mind could not have called a luxury, and there Bridget's payments seemed to stop. She did not seem to feel the need of making any purchases just then.
"Kitty, dear," said Mrs. Fenelby, gently, the morning of the damp foot-prints on the porch, after the men had started for the station, "that is a pretty shirt-waist you have on this morning."
"Do you like it?" asked Kitty, innocently. "Don't you think it is a little tight across the shoulders?"
"No," said Mrs. Fenelby. "And I like this skirt better than the one you were wearing yesterday."
There was no mistaking the meaning of that. The way Mrs. Fenelby bowed over the bit of sewing she had taken up was evidence that she had suspicion in her mind. Kitty clasped her hands behind her back and laughed.
"You have been looking into my closet!" she declared. "You sit there and try to look innocent, and you know everything that I have, down to the last ribbon! Well, I just can't afford to pay your old tariff. It would simply ruin me. And the men will never know, anyway. They don't notice such things. I could wear a different dress every day, and they wouldn't know it."
"But I know it," said Laura, reprovingly. "Do you think it is right, Kitty, to smuggle things into the house that way? Is it fair to Bobberty?"
"There!" exclaimed Kitty, dropping a jingling coin into Bobberts' bank. "There is a quarter for him! That is every cent I can afford."
"That wouldn't pay the duty on one single shirt-waist," said Laura, quietly.
"It wouldn't," admitted Kitty, frankly, bending over Laura and taking her face in her hands. She turned the face upward and looked in its eyes. Then she bent down and whispered in Laura's ear, and laughed as a blush suffused Laura's face.
"I was short of money," said Laura with dignity, "and I mean to pay the duty as soon as I get my next week's allowance. I simply had to have a new purse, and you coaxed me to buy it. It wasn't smuggling at all."
"Wasn't it?" asked Kitty. "Then why did you ask me to leave it in my room, instead of showing it to Tom? Smuggler!"
Mrs. Fenelby arose and walked away. She turned to the kitchen and opened the door. She was just in time to see Bridget lower a bottle from her lips and hastily conceal it behind her skirts.
"Bridget!" she exclaimed sharply, with horror.
"'Tis th' doctor's orders, ma'am," said Bridget. "'Tis for me cold."
She coughed as well as she could, but it was not a very successful cough. Mrs. Fenelby hesitated a moment, and then she pointed to the door.
"You may pack your trunk, Bridget," she said, and Bridget jerked off her apron and stamped out of the kitchen.
"But perhaps the poor thing was taking it by her doctor's orders," suggested Kitty, when Mrs. Fenelby, red eyed, went into the front rooms again.
"She'll have to go," said Mrs. Fenelby, dolefully. "I can't have a drinking servant where poor, dear Bobberts is. But that isn't what makes me feel so badly. It is to think how that girl has deceived me. I treated her just as I would treat one of the family, and she pretended to be so fond of Bobberts, and so interested in his education, and so eager to help his fund, and here she has been smuggling liquor into the house all the time."
She wiped her eyes and sighed.
"And liquor is a luxury, and pays thirty per cent.," she said sadly. "I don't know who to trust when I can't trust a girl like Bridget. She should have paid the duty the minute she brought the stuff into the house. It just shows that you can't place any reliance on that class."
Kitty nodded assent.
"You'll have to pay her," she said. "Shall I run up and get your purse?"
She went, and as she reached the hall, Billy entered. He gazed at Kitty's garments closely, making mental note of them for future comparisons, and as he stood aside to let her pass he held one hand carefully out of sight behind him. It held a package—an oblong package, sharply rectangular in shape. A close observer would have said it was a box such as contains fifty cigars when it is full, but it was not full. Billy had taken one of the cigars out when he made the purchase at the station cigar store.
THE AMATEUR DETECTIVE
When Billy Fenelby had taken his box of cigars up to his room he came down again, but he did not go anywhere near Bobberts' bank, as he should have gone had he intended depositing in it the thirty per cent. of the value of the cigars, which was the duty due on cigars under the provisions of the Fenelby Domestic Tariff. He walked out to the veranda and got into the hammock and began to read the morning paper.
From time to time he let it hang down over the edge of the hammock, as if it bored him, and he glanced at the door as if he hoped someone would come out of the house. The paper was not very interesting that morning, and Billy had other things to think of. He had volunteered to keep an eye on Kitty, and to find out definitely, if he could, whether she was smuggling shirt-waists and other things—or had already smuggled them—into the house, contrary to the provisions of the tariff. He felt that the more he saw of girls the less he liked them, and that the more he saw of Kitty, particularly, the less he fancied her, but if he was going to do this amateur detective business he wanted to begin it as soon as possible, and he watched the door closely. He wanted to see whether Kitty would still wear the pink shirt-waist she had worn at breakfast, or the white one she had worn the evening before, or whether she would dare to wear another.
The sudden departure of Bridget had upset the domestic affairs somewhat, and Kitty and Mrs. Fenelby were busy in the kitchen, but after the dishes were washed, and the rooms set to rights, and the beds made, and Bobberts given his bath, Kitty came out. It had been a long and tedious morning for Billy. There is nothing so helpless as a detective who can't work at his business of detecting, and when the job is to detect a pretty girl, and she won't show up, the waiting is rather tiresome. At one time Billy was almost tempted to go in and ask her to come out, and he would probably have gone in and snooped around a bit, if she had not appeared just then.
Kitty came out with all the brazen effrontery of a hardened criminal. That is to say she came out singing, and with her hair perfectly in order, and looking in every way fresh and charming. Billy recognized this immediately as the wile of a malefactor trying to throw an officer of the law off the scent, but he was not to be discouraged by it, and he jumped out of the hammock and went up to her. She still wore the pink shirt-waist, and it was very becoming. She looked just as well in it as if she had paid the lawful ten per cent. duty on it. It is not the duty that makes that kind of a shirt-waist pretty; it is the way it is made, and the trimming. The girl that is in it helps some, too. It is a fact that a shirt-waist looks entirely different on different girls. You have to consider the girl and her shirt-waist together, as a whole or unit, if you are going to be able to recognize it when you see it again, and Billy was ready to consider it that way. If he ever saw that pink confection with that saucy chin and merry face above it again he meant to be able to recognize the combination. That is one of the duties of a detective.
"Let's go out under the tree," he said, "and sit down, and—and talk it over. I have something I want to talk about."
"Talk it over," said Kitty, lifting her eyebrows. "Talk what over?"
You couldn't nonplus Billy that way, when he was in pursuit of his duty.
"Well," he said, "we—that is, I didn't thank you for bringing me up that collar this morning. I want to thank you for it."
"Yes?" said Kitty. "Well, here I am. Thank me. You did thank me once, but I don't care. Do it again."
"Thank you," said Billy.
"You're welcome," Kitty said, and then they both laughed.
"What do you think of this Domestic Tariff business?" asked Billy, seeking to lead her into some admission of which he could make use as proof of her smuggling.
"I think it is a simply splendid idea!" Kitty declared. "I am sure no one but Tom could have thought of it, and the very minute I heard of it I went into it body and soul. It was so clever of him to conceive such an idea, and such a simple way to build up an education fund for dear, sweet, little Bobberts! And isn't it nice of Tom and Laura to let us be in it and pay our share of the duty. It makes us feel so much more as if we were really part of the family."
"Doesn't it?" said Billy. "It makes us feel as if we had a right to be here—when we pay duty and all that. I feel like bringing in a lot of stuff just so that I can pay duty on it. I was thinking about it this morning, and about that little joke of mine about not bringing in that collar last night, and I felt what I had missed by leaving it out on the porch, so I got up and went down for it. That was how you happened to meet me in the hall—I wanted to get it and bring it in so I could pay the duty, and be in the fun myself. You don't think I was going to smuggle it in, do you?"
"Oh, no!" said Kitty, with a long-drawn o. "Nobody would be so mean as to smuggle anything into the house, when the duty all goes to dear little Bobberts. It is such fun to pay duty, just as if the house was a real nation. It is like being part of the nation, and you know we women are not that. We can't vote, nor anything, and a chance like this is so rare that we enjoy it immensely. You didn't think it was queer that I should go down so early in the morning to get your collar and bring it in, did you?"